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Medical Marijuana Laws: New York vs. California

Medical Marijuana Laws: New York vs. California

Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 06/22/2010 in Medical Marijuana Laws

by Evan Nison

Evan is a Director of NY Patients Fist, the Ballot Initiative Coordinator for NORML-NJ, President of Ithaca College’s chapter of SSDP, and a member of the Volunteer Steering Committee for the California Tax and Regulate Campaign.


This summer, I left the New York area and came to California to work on the Tax Cannabis in 2010 campaign that will be voted on this November 2nd. After talking to legislators in New York about how medical cannabis is regulated in California, I was expecting marijuana to be flooding the streets out here in California. Nearly every legislator in NY talks about “not wanting to become California” when discussing the pending medical marijuana legislation.

Well, it turns out California is not as bad as they think. But even if it was, legislators have no reason for this fear, which is apparent when you compare New York’s bill with California’s Proposition 215.

New York’s restriction-laden bill is nothing like California’s Prop 215, which allows patients in CA to use medical cannabis and get medical marijuana from dispensaries with virtually no regulations. As evidence, just take a look at the bills’ length: Prop 215 is a mere 398 words while New York’s bill is 5,008.

In those 5,008 words there are a lot of restrictions and regulations that are simply not in CA medical marijuana law. For instance, regarding restrictions on who can be a patient, NY’s bill states that the patient certification may only be issued if the patients has a severely debilitating condition and is under the practitioner’s on-going care.

On the other hand, Prop 215 states that “no physician in this state [California] shall be punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes.” And since Prop 215 is so broad, it allows doctors to write recommendations for minor ailments like writer’s cramp and nightmares.

Patients are not making up illnesses to get medical marijuana in California; they are simply allowed to use medical marijuana for nearly any ailment. New York legislators have no reason to fear they will have a similar patient population to California.

In terms of distribution and cultivation, the New York medical marijuana bill mandates that reports be filed for marijuana sales and that patients cannot grow their own marijuana, assuring that the medical marijuana is for patients only.

The much more lenient Prop 215 allows for growing and simply states that punishments regarding marijuana do not apply to certified patients.

Those who say New York’s medical marijuana bill will turn New York turn into California are clearly not comparing our bill to the California law. In my opinion, this law will serve as an excellent example to legislators around the country on what a good medical marijuana law looks like and should be passed as soon as possible.

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